Federal green light reignites debate over changes to Kentucky's Medicaid program
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The on-again, off-again overhaul of Kentucky's Medicaid program is back on again.
A federal judge threw out Kentucky's first attempt to revamp Medicaid. Now, the Trump administration said the state can try again.
The Medicaid overhaul, which the state calls Kentucky HEALTH, requires some recipients to do community engagement to receive their benefits. The activities include working, volunteering or taking classes.
“Many people have said this is a barrier, and yes, there are additional actions that individuals must take," said Kristi Putnam, deputy director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "But those actions are all tied to what we hope will be improved health outcomes."
In June, a federal judge blocked Kentucky's first try at overhauling Medicaid.
Putnam said the state has since gotten more input, and the program has been adjusted "to make sure that we have the right processes in place to protect against loss of access to care as much as possible,” Putnam said.
Opponents, such as Angela Cooper of Kentucky Voices for Health, predict thousands will lose coverage as they did in a similar program in Arkansas.
“ER visits are going to increase, the cost to the taxpayers is going to increase, and people will probably die,” Cooper said.
Cooper anticipated there will be another legal challenge.
“Medicaid is a safety net," she said. "It's not a jobs program."
But the Bevin administration is convinced the changes will lead to a healthier Kentucky and lower Medicaid costs.
“We are prepared for another legal challenge if and when that comes,” Putnam said. “We definitely believe this is moving us in the right direction.”
The changes could affect up to 350,000 Kentuckians.
Unless there is a successful court challenge, the new Medicaid program is scheduled to begin rolling out in April 2019 and take effect in Louisville in May.
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